Living with Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC): Development of a Conceptual Model of MCC Based on Patient Experiences

Patient. 2018 Aug;11(4):439-449. doi: 10.1007/s40271-018-0301-0.


Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive skin cancer with limited treatment options at advanced stages. There is a paucity of data available regarding the impact of MCC and its management on patients' lives. This study aimed to address this gap by interviewing patients with metastatic MCC entering a trial of an immunotherapy (avelumab).

Methods: In a single-arm, open-label, international, phase 2 trial in patients with stage IV, chemotherapy-refractory, histologically confirmed MCC, patients were invited to participate in semi-structured phone interviews. These were conducted before avelumab administration. Interview transcripts were analysed qualitatively to identify concepts important to patients relating to their experience of metastatic MCC and its management.

Results: Nineteen patients were interviewed. Most reported MCC to be painless and asymptomatic. They reported being often misdiagnosed and described a long process before receiving the correct diagnosis. They also reported a feeling of "shock" after being informed of the severity and seriousness of their cancer. Overall, patients did not report impaired physical and cognitive capacities or impact on daily lives, either before or after diagnosis. However, patients and their relatives reported feelings of "worry" and "fear" about the unknown outcome of the disease. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy negatively affected patients physically and psychologically in their everyday lives.

Conclusions: MCC disease was not perceived by the interviewed patients to result in severe functional limitations or to severely impact everyday activities, but was associated with substantial negative psychological impact. In contrast, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for MCC are highly debilitating and disrupt patients' lives. CLINICALTRIALS.

Gov identifier: NCT02155647.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / psychology*
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / radiotherapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Time-to-Treatment


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • avelumab

Associated data